A s a proscrastinator, I’ve missed a few deadlines in my time, including the one for this column. Please forgive me, Chester Moore.
In a concerted effort this past June to change my ways—finally—I created a checklist of things to do weekly before hunting season. Between writing and publication, I will have accomplished at least half of what lies before me by then—the good half, tasks essential to a successful hunting season.
Knowing myself all too well, though, I also understand that a few things will have suffered life’s regular lineup of interferences and will have been neglected. Stuff happens.
The following thoughts outline what I hope to have accomplished by now and—fingers crossed that I’m wrong—a confession about which boxes will probably remain unchecked even in the bottom of the ninth.
A new hunting license will be tucked into the wallet. It will have all the endorsements, fishing and hunting, offered by this state. Plus a federal waterfowl stamp regardless of cost.
Odds say that sooner or later over the year, I’ll get in a few licks on most of the wildlife we hunt in Texas. To do so lawfully requires proper documentation. It’s a good investment in conservation, too.
Also on the high-confidence side, I’ll presume I’ve retrieved my rifles and shotguns from the safe. Each of them will have undergone thorough inspections and final, “pre-game” tightening and cleaning.
It’s unwise to store guns dirty, even a little. I won’t do that. They were put to bed clean many months ago, but my philosophy is that any gun can be made a little cleaner by someone willing to exert effort in that direction.
I will have inventoried ammo by now, as well, and supplemented where necessary. It’s easier to start the season with all the cartridges and shotgun shells you think you’ll need to reach closing day than scramble to the gun store every few weeks to resupply. Buying in bulk, as a reminder, also can get you significant discounts through many outlets.
(A tip: If you have friends who shoot the same ammo as you and in relatively equal quantities, consider pooling your resources and purchasing large—really large—quantities of ammo. Back when I guided waterfowl hunts, our group routinely ordered as many as 50 to 60 cases of waterfowl ammo before the season. Whether we individually ordered two cases or a dozen, we all bought at “wholesale” prices and saved a bunch of money.)
Although I probably will have broken a couple hundred sporting-clays targets by now, odds are low that my rifles will have been redialed to their tightest accuracy. August heat makes it difficult, except perhaps at dawn’s crack, to make confident scope adjustments. Midday and afternoon barrels are overheated after the first shot and can take an eternity to cool.
If you really want to shoot through the peak of summer, fire away. Know anyone who has pigs tearing up pastures? That’s a mutually beneficial relationship waiting to be kindled. Burn off old ammo and do a farmer a favor.
Or wait until September, maybe even October, when you’ve got better odds for cooler conditions at the range. Hot or cold, when I do shoot the rifles, I’ll fire some rounds in bulky clothing and some in a light jacket. Outerwear doesn’t affect the rifle’s capabilities, but the changes remind me that not every day of deer season is cold and crisp.
One suggestion I made this summer in a radio feature I called “Countdown to Hunting Season” was to touch up the paint on our duck decoys. In confession, through 14 seasons as a professional guide and more winters than that as an avid waterfowl hunter, I rarely picked up a brush or markers. It was easier to just buy a couple dozen new decoys and mix them with the faded ones. That left more time for fishing, which also is important.
What you must do to decoys, however, is plug leaks caused by errant pellets. I’m not saying it was you who strafed your own blocks. Blame the holes on kids or guests if you must, but patch them. Even a faded decoy with a dented side looks better than one that’s listing like a galleon on a coral reef at low tide. (I’ll confess also to tossing and replacing a few punctured decoys rather than plugging the holes; those reds and trout weren’t going to catch themselves.)
Do as I say about decoy painting and repair, not as I do, and you’ll probably shoot more ducks this season.
Arguably the most critical pre-season task is the re-fitting of pants, shirts, belts and insulated underwear to check for “off-season shrinkage.” This phenomenon occurs primarily in the clothes of hunters older than 30 and rarely affects socks, hats or boots.
Okay—we gain weight. And the older we get, the greater the difference between a past season’s waistline and a coming season’s waistline. Get over it. Buy and wear the new, larger pants proudly, and pass the old gear to someone who will appreciate it without comment on your expansion.
Back when I started my list and wrote this column in June, hunting season seemed distant. Now, it’s at our doorsteps. Make your own list—quickly. Time’s up. September 1 is filling the windshield, ready or not.
Email Doug Pike at [email protected]